Scrum Collapses and Re-sets - Green and Gold Rugby
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Scrum Collapses and Re-sets

Scrum Collapses and Re-sets

Whilst in any discussion involving rugby there is usually some talk of the strengths or weaknesses of certain teams’ scrum any such discussion inevitably gets back to the issue of scrum collapses and the need to repeatedly re-set scrums.

No matter which hemisphere someone hails from, no matter which team they support or which competition their team plays in you’ll struggle to find many people who are happy with the amount of game time taken up with scrums being re-set.

The IRB know it’s a major issue for fans and since 2009 have been gathering data to ascertain whether there’s been any improvement. 

According to the IRB in 2009 and 2010 in Tier 1 International matches (involving Six Nations teams, Tr-Nations teams and Argentina) there were an average of 16 scrums awarded each game, of which an average of 9 collapsed per game or 56%.

At the conclusion of the 2011 Six Nations the IRB released data on scrum performance in that tournament that showed that for every 100 scrums packed in the Six Nations tournament 54 collapsed with 30 of those scrums being re-set and 44 resulting in a penalty or free kick so that the ball only came out of each 100 scrums on 56 occasions.

We’ve seen plenty of scrum collapses and re-sets in Southern hemisphere competitions but how do the numbers for Super Rugby and Tri-Nations Rugby in 2011 compare with the Northern hemisphere?  We only have data on scrum re-sets but compared to the data from the IRB, there were fewer Southern hemisphere scrum re-sets than in the 2011 Six Nations tournament as follows:

IRB Data - 2011 Six NationsVerusco Data - 2011 Super RugbyVerusco Data - 2011 Tri-Nations
Average Number of Scrums Packed per game121011
Average Re-sets of Scrums per game423
Re-sets per 100 Scrums Packed30%22%25%

Given the different weather patterns in the Northern and Southern hemisphere winters you’d expect fields in the Northern hemisphere fields may be more slippery than in the Southern hemisphere and this may have some impact on the number of re-sets.

The IRB have publicly stated that they see the number of scrums collapses and re-sets as a major problem for the game.  This is clearly not a problem just in the Southern hemisphere and there appears to be support from unions in both hemispheres to address the issues in 2012.  The former England hooker, Brian Moore, is very critical of the current situation and sees it as a blight on the game. 

Whether addressing the issue will involve applying the existing laws more strictly or a trial of new law variations remains to be seen but there is plenty of talk around that there may be a trial of laws involving a removal of the hit. That would remove one of the unique things about rugby and I’d prefer to see the hit retained but won’t be surprised if there is a trial implemented next year.

In Super Rugby in 2011 the number of scrums and scrum re-sets for each team was a follows:

TeamScrums With FeedScrum Resets on Own Feed% Scrums Reset on Own Feed
Bulls1341813%
Chiefs1512114%
Sharks1602717%
Crusaders1302519%
Hurricanes1402719%
Highlanders1763520%
Brumbies1693420%
Blues1332720%
Cheetahs1473020%
Reds1463222%
Stormers1553623%
Lions1423323%
Waratahs2025125%
Force1775229%
Rebels2276730%

In the 2011 Tri-Nations tournament the number of scrums and re-sets for each team was as follows:

All BlacksWallabiesSpringboks
Average Number of Scrums Packed per game141217
Average Re-sets of Scrums per game235
Re-sets per 100 Scrums Packed17%29%29%

The Wallabies and Springboks re-set numbers in 2011 are similar to those of teams in the Six Nations tournament.

The Wallabies scrum has looked quite good this year but will face some testing times in the RWC starting with a strong Italian scrum this weekend.  I doubt anyone expects the Wallaby scrum can dominate the strong scrummaging teams they’re likely to play in the tournament – Italy, Wales, England and New Zealand – but they don’t need to dominate at scrum time, just win their own ball and get it out quickly.

  • Jay

    I agree with the last para.

    The scrum is often overrated as a factor – if a team has an 8/9 pair that are good at clearing the ball from an unstable scrum (Samo & Genia are both very good at this) it doesn’t usually matter if a team isn’t that strong as long as the scrum isn’t getting completely destroyed.

    Aus in 05/06 were getting destroyed time and time again at scrum time to the extent that it was a factor almost constantly. The current Wallaby scrum is competent at test level & is able to negate any scrum time deficiencies against the stronger scrumming teams (and on the odd occasion can actually put a great shove on).

  • Pie Thrower

    After recently watching some of the ‘classic games’ from the late 80’s and early 90’s I was taken with how quickly the scrums were packed, how solid they were and how quickly the game went on. It almost looked like what you see in the dying minutes of a league game (sorry to bring up THAT code) when one team is trying to have the clock stopped. Players rush in, get their heads in and are ready to pack. Completely the opposite to these days where it seems to take up to a minute to get into formation, then start the annoying ‘crouch, touch, pause, hang around a bit, think about it, wait a bit longer, pause again, then engage – only to collapse and start all over again.

    Why can’t we go back to the laws that were around then. The scrum was no less powerful then. Or is it a case of players being bigger with different techniques etc??

    • Garry

      Now the game is (more) professional, I think its more a case of more time to practice, more time going into how to the positive and negative aspects of scrums. Not just how to win your feed, but also how to disrupt theirs.

      I really think that refs need more education on what to be looking for, and need more assistance from their ref assistants (watching things like binds, and breaking early). The ref can’t be on both sides of the scrum, and every thing happens so quickly. Even if this was to change over night, unfortunately it will take a long time to evolve because player are always going to try and get the advantage whether fair or otherwise. We may have to go through a period of high penalty count before the situation improved.

      Perhaps we need more ex-front-rowers as refs?

      • Patrick

        I have never understood why the closest touchie can’t be instructed to get in and monitor that side?

    • stinger

      Pie thrower you are quite correct and if you go back even further to the 60s/70s the ref was barely involved at all. 2 sides formed up when ready and lent in – the ref just made sure the pushing only came on with the ball and no other tom foolery happened.

      We definitely need to revisit this. The biggest force in the scrum sequence is the hit (which is where most scrums fail). The ridiculous count in we have now allows both teams to time their hit and SMASH into each other. I think both sides should form up in a timely manner and crouch when ready. The ref just calls ‘hold, ENGAGE’ when he sees both sides ready. I think this would avoid injury and alot of resets.

      • galumay

        I agree, get rid of this rubbish from the Refs disrupting the game, I would go so far as to go right back to the system when scrums actually worked in a timely manner and not have any involvement from the Ref in setting them. He awards the scrum, the forwards bind and step into the scrum, ball is fed and play progresses. The current scrum is a blight on the modern game and is so subject to the vaguaries of varying Refs that it has become an inconsistent joke.

  • Who Needs Melon

    An interesting aspect of the stats for me: The fact that the Waratahs and Rebels look like such outliers in terms of number of scrums with feed. Why would that be? (serious question)

    • Pie Thrower

      Not sure about the Rebels, but for the tahs – Al Baxter is about the only reason you’ll need to look for.

      • Hawko

        Cheap shot! 2011 season Baxter was often the bench prop, Kepu and Robinson were the first choices. Baxter saw plenty of time as first choice once the injuries started to bite but I do not remember him being better or worse than his mates.

        Note that the two outliers were the Force and the Rebels. With just 6% covering 10 teams its hard to prove the Waratahs were all that bad. Still, if you repeat a myth often enough it becomes a fact. Just ask Tony Abbott.

        • RJ

          I wish carbon tax and Gilliard were a myth. Give it 6 months and they both will be.

        • Pie Thrower

          sorry, couldn’t help myself!!

  • Piggy

    Perhaps we need more ex-front-rowers as refs?
    —–

    Too busy being coaches…

    • Garry

      They’ve gone over to the dark side.

  • Bally Moore

    For me is the conflicting issues of the law book saying ‘no pushing until the ball is fed’ and the practice of ‘winning the hit’.

    If the first is upheld, why are there any collapsed scrums at all ? seems to me that the vast majority of penalties / collapses happen before the ball is fed, at a time when there should be no pushing…?

    • RJ

      Yeah that rules been overlooked for years. I’m more baffled by the ref’s interpretation of “behind the last mans feet” rule. WTF happened to that one 2 weekends ago.

  • Jimbo81

    I agree we probably don’t need to win the scrum battle to win the game but constantly being a laughing stock at scrum time is a huge disadvantage, and one there really are no excuses for. FIT IT! If England can have a strong anything, Australia should be able to trump it x10!

    • RJ

      yeah mate it goes against the natural order of things. Cricket, rugby, china olypics they even pipped us.

      At least we made every country who is part of the commonwealth learn our national anthem word for word during the delhi games.

      As much as I love having a beer with our pomme mates and talk rubgy chop, if we lose against them in this world cup, I wont be able to hack it. It’s not just a game anymore to me. The natural order needs to be re-established starting with a belting of the POM’s.

  • Jimbo81

    RJ – that will happen. The poms pose no threat whatsoever – such has been the improvement of the Wallabies since 2010. Paris showed our potential, and the first half last week against the AB’s shows us the current form. England are not as good as the AB’s! Not by a long way – and they know it. Australia to smash England in the semi’s by 50!

  • brokendown

    what are the odds of the world Cup being decided on a penalty resulting from a collapsed scrum in the 79th minute of the final?

  • robbo999

    I have been watching a lot of the classic matches which Foxsports have been showing over the past weeks. TH most obvious thing from the matches in the amateur era is that the time taken to set a scrum was about 15 secs and the number of resets was about zero. The question to ask is – were they as physical and brutal as they are now. I don’t know but the speed of the game in those matches was impressive and given that substitutions, apart from on medical grounds, were non-existent, the fits of the teams to keep going at the pace they set is very impressive. Bring it back I say – set a scrum in 15 secs or award a penalty.

  • Bearfacts

    The blatant stalling before the scrum by all sides irritates me. When the ref blows a scrum a number of players sit down and the water boys pass the bottle around. To me it looks like most of them are just having a blow. If a player can’t get to the scrum, the game should go on. Say an uncontested scrum.

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@ScottA_

Scott is one of our regular contributors from the old days of G&GR. He has experience coaching Premier Grade with two clubs in Brisbane.

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